Thursday, July 24, 2014
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Flat Rock park opponent makes his case

Here are excerpts from a 1,623-word letter by Flat Rock resident Bob Demartini raising questions about the proposed Highland Lake Park.


"Because the magnitude of such an undertaking far exceeds anything the Village has ever dealt with before, it is appropriate that we think about implications, 'unintended consequences' and alternatives as part of the evaluation process. To date our citizens have been exposed essentially exclusively to only one viewpoint, that urging the Administration to invest in their initiative. Hence this review in the interest of balance."
The property as an entrance gateway: "Some suggest there's need to worry that undesirable structures might be erected by other buyers of the Highland Lake property, arguing that buying it would constitute a defensive move by the Village. But that ignores the fact that some two-thirds of the 67-acre property is classified Flood Plain, ruling out anybody being able to build anything on most of it, desirable or undesirable. The low-lying land fronts on the roadway, is suitable for agricultural and recreational use only, and it will be unavailable to would-be spoilers. At the higher elevations, mostly set back from the roadway, attractive condos that would benefit from a view of a cultivated flood plain could be a desirable development."
Need vs. want: "Whatever truly motivates Park Project boosters, no case has been made that it serves a true need, though arguably it could qualify as 'nice to have.'"
Protecting Village fund balance: "To their credit, past VFR administrations patiently assembled a 'nest egg' of some $5 million, sufficient to enable the Village to deal with unanticipated surprises. ... Those monies represent ready means for dealing with what the dictionary defines as "possible, accidental or chance events (contingencies). ... When it is our turn for Mother Nature to deliver on our area a devastating hurricane or tornado or whatever, should we be dependent on the federal government to alleviate the mess?"
Planning for the unexpected from General Assembly: "The new administration in Raleigh has revealed an intention to make North Carolina more competitive by reducing or eliminating income taxes for individuals and businesses in favor of greater dependence on use (sales) taxes." The state could "discontinue the practice of recycling (returning) a portion of sales tax collections to counties and municipalities. How serious would it be for Flat Rock to face being cut off from some $350,000 of annual income?"
Is it superfluous? "Elsewhere it has been shown that most all of the amenities provided in the proposal are available to our citizens in Connemara, in nearby Henderson County and national parks, all without need for Flat Rock investment. In view of the negatives and risks associated with our duplicating what already exists, how can we justify expending effort and treasure on such a project?"
Opinion feedback: "We are regaled with multiple polls purporting to confirm that a majority of Flat Rock residents favor investing in the park and its ongoing expense. Unconvincing! Such surveys are unscientifically organized and expected, failing to identify who was polled and just what was asked."
Other options: "Should we ever consider investing large sums should we not examine what other uses for the money might be preferable to the one currently in the headlights. One that comes closer to qualifying as a need is burying overhead utility lines along tree-lined Rte 225 to avert serious outages. Duke Power refuses, for cost reasons, to undertake that, but a sizeable contribution by the VFR might change that."
Set standard for spending: "This appeal for Treasury funds is unlikely to be the last. A cache as large as that which has been saved can be expected to be the target of others who will propose pet projects they deem too justifiable to be denied. Why not anticipate that and establish some standards on which to base the judgment in current and future proposals? Example: Set as a minimum amount (say, $5 million, indexed) of investible funds to be held in the Treasury as insurance against contingency demands."
The conservative view: "Viewpoints reflected in the foregoing reflect thoughts of citizens who oppose proceeding with the Highland Lake Park project. They have not coalesced into an organized group or attempted to develop a public momentum comparably to what Park boosters have achieved. Needless to say, in this conservative-leaning community it is to be expected that there are many who favor a fiscally prudent approach and they are asking that their sentiments be heard."